On July 3 McDermott International (market cap $3.44 billion) announced the appointment of Samik Mukherjee as its new Chief Operating Officer at a base salary of $700,000. He also received a cash signing bonus of $450,000.
He joined from TechnipFMC (market cap $13 billion) where he was the Executive VP of Corporate Development, Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions, Digital and IT.
TechnipFMC has now filed a lawsuit against its local rival, alleging that Mr Mukherjee stole confidential information and trade secrets from McDermott.
The lawsuit states that;
- Mr Mukherjee started discussing the COO position with McDermott in November 2017. The offer was conditional on McDermott’s merger with CB&I (a direct competitor to TechnipFMC) being finalized.
- The merger closed on May 2, 2018 and later that day he told the TechnipFMC CEO that he intended to resign.
- On May 1 and May 3, Mr Mukherjee allegedly downloaded over 16,000 TechnipFMC files totalling over 3 gigabytes of data.
- In February 2018 TechnipFMC submitted a more than one billion dollar bid for a project with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in India. Mr Mukherjee allegedly discussed the terms of this bid with a representative of McDermott that same month. On August 7, TechnipFMC learned that it lost the ONGC bid to McDermott by 0.89% of the primary bid price.
- A week before he resigned Mr Mukherjee called a TechnipFMC division leader about a meeting the division head had with another potential customer in India. That potential customer told the division head that he was dissatisfied with the work McDermott was performing for it and that TechnipFMC may win future work. Instead Mr Mukherjee relayed that information back to McDermott before he resigned.
In early July, TechnipFMC retained B&V Pathway Forensics to analyze Mr Mukherjee’s laptop and cell phone.
The court granted a temporary restraining order requiring McDermott and Mr Mukherjee to return any TechnipFMC documents within 7 days and to not use any confidential information or trade secrets. Mr Mukherjee also must make his electronic devices and storage accounts available for a third-party forensic inspection (there are apparently some external hard drives that Mr Mukherjee used but didn’t return to TechnipFMC).
The judge refused TechnipFMC’s request that Mr Mukherjee be prohibited from working for McDermott.
Having read the lawsuit, there appears to be a lot of specific detail to back up TechnipFMC’s claims. In this day and age of forensics and cyber-security it’s hard to believe that a senior executive could be so dumb, but it wouldn’t be the first time.
In February Uber agreed pay Waymo approximately $245 million after Waymo alleged one of its autonomous vehicle engineers downloaded thousands of documents before setting up his own company that was acquired by Uber less than 6 months later for $590 million.